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Delta boosts transpacific network with early route restart

June 17, 2022
4 min read
Delta boosts transpacific network with early route restart
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Delta Air Lines is restoring its full service to Seoul, South Korea, earlier than planned, a hopeful sign that transpacific travel may be starting to bounce back from deep pandemic-era cuts.

The airline announced on Friday that it'll resume flying from its Minneapolis/St. Paul (MSP) hub to Seoul (ICN) on Oct. 2, more than three weeks before it was originally slated to restart (on Oct. 29).

Delta will operate the 6,248-mile route three times weekly between Oct. 2 and Oct. 28, and then the route will be upgraded to daily service through the rest of the year and beyond.

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The airline will deploy fly the route with its flagship Airbus A350-900 aircraft, which is outfitted with 32 Delta One business-class suites, 48 Premium Select recliners, 36 extra-legroom Comfort+ seats and 190 standard coach ones.

Perhaps the biggest winner in Delta's announcement is Minneapolis/St. Paul, which is getting its longest and most-prominent route back. The airline cut Seoul service just as the pandemic took hold in March 2020, Cirium schedules show.

In more good news for MSP, Delta plans to also restore service to Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) on Oct. 29 as well, airline spokesperson Drake Castaneda confirmed to TPG.

With the resumption of MSP service, Delta will be back to full service to Seoul, with nonstop flights from Atlanta (ATL), Detroit (DTW) and Seattle (SEA) flying during the winter season. All routes are operated by aircraft outfitted with Delta's premier business-class suites and Premium Select recliners.

(Map courtesy of Cirium)

The airline also plans to launch a new route to Seoul from Portland, Oregon(PDX), later this year. This route was first announced in April 2021, but the inaugural has since been delayed due to the pandemic.

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Seoul is Delta's main transpacific gateway for those looking to connect to flights within Asia and beyond, as the airline's joint venture partnership with Korean Air offers travelers more than 80 destinations in the region.

While many of the headlines have recently been about a resurgence in demand for travel to Europe, transpacific travel has been much slower to recover.

With strict COVID travel restrictions and tight border controls, there hasn't been as much demand for travel to Asia as there's been to Europe, where many countries have fully reopened without any health requirements.

But now, even countries in Asia are starting to relax their restrictions — and Delta seemingly expects demand to rebound this winter.

“As travel restrictions ease, international and business travel is expected to drive the next leg of Delta’s recovery. Recent demand has been strong in Asian markets, particularly in Korea and Japan as those countries roll back COVID-era travel restrictions. Full restoration of the airline’s Korean network is a positive indicator of what’s to come for the rest of the Asia region,” Matteo Curcio, Delta's vice president of Asia Pacific, said in a statement.

Delta isn't the only airline sensing a transpacific rebound.

Last week, United unveiled plans to add a new route between San Francisco (SFO) and Brisbane, Australia (BNE), becoming the first U.S. carrier to add a new transpacific destination since the start of the pandemic.

Even though demand for travel to Australia is recovering, United's new route is "unlocked" by its new partnership with Virgin Australia.

Virgin entered voluntary administration — similar to Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. — in April 2020 as travel plunged at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following its restructuring, a much leaner Virgin Australia was later sold to Bain Capital. As part of the new ownership, a transpacific joint venture between Virgin Australia and its then-U.S. partner, Delta, was suspended later in 2020.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more